Julius Randle. Jabari Parker. Andrew Wiggins. While those three players are poised to stake their claim as the kings of college basketball, there’s only one player whose the reigning king of the mountain. His name is Marcus Smart.
“All my life, I’ve been a winner, you know? Back-to-back state championships and then to come in and finally make the NCAA Tournament. Just all my life I’ve been winning. But this team, I felt like we had a lot more to accomplish. We were a lot better team than that. That’s just not the way we wanted to go out. It helped me a little bit to get motivated to come back this year.” — Marcus Smart, as told to SLAM in the summer of 2013
The questions of why Smart decided to return to college basketball is now a moot point. He himself decided that he wasn’t ready, he was still enjoying school and he still had things to accomplish. In a world where many have questioned this simple logic, Smart has seemed at peace with his decision, and on Tuesday night versus the No. 11 ranked Memphis Tigers, the leader of the No. 7 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys put on a show. #33 proved the world that this move was indeed the best move.
Marcus Smart dropped a 39/4/4/5/2 line on Memphis, and one member of the crowd made the easy observation that the man was ready for primetime.
Marcus can play in the league right now. Definitely, he was just unbelievable for them tonight. He was doing it all for them, rebounding, blocking shots, passing, scoring. He led them.[…]
I knew he could do everything pretty well. But I like his demeanor. I like how he handles his teammates. A player like him, he always can burst out and get 30 or 40 points. He is poised, and the extra year will help him out as far as knowing the game more. I wish him good luck. — Kevin Durant
Who knows, maybe Kevin Durant wasn’t there to appreciate the game of Marcus Smart. Maybe Kevin Durant was there to remember the time he put the world on notice in Gallagher-Iba Arena vs. Mario Boggan that he was next. Maybe Kevin Durant was scouting him, taking a few notes and keeping his observations in the back of his head. Marcus Smart’s reign in college hoops will end in April, but his chances for NBA stardom will loom immediately following. The Association better get ready.
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”